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What Happens During Aquamation?

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

A clear water drop

Title: What Happens During Aquamation?


Aquamation is a term that has been making rounds in the funeral industry, but not everyone is familiar with what it entails. So, what is aquamation? Also known as alkaline hydrolysis or water cremation, aquamation is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional burial and cremation methods. This process uses water instead of fire to return a body to its natural elements. In this blog post, we will delve deeper into the process of aquamation and what happens during this unique method of body disposition.

Understanding Aquamation

Aquamation, also known as bio-cremation or green cremation, is a gentle process that uses water flow, temperature, and alkalinity to mimic the natural decomposition process. The procedure involves placing the body in a pressurized vessel filled with a solution of 95% water and 5% potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide. The vessel is then heated to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit (but under high pressure, so it doesn't boil), which accelerates the breakdown of organic materials.

The entire aquamation process takes between 18 to 20 hours depending on the size of the body and the specific equipment used. After completion, all that remains are bone fragments (similar to those left after cremation) and a sterile liquid containing salts, sugars, amino acids - essentially the building blocks of life.

The Environmental Impact

One of the main reasons why people choose aquamation over traditional methods is its minimal environmental impact. Traditional cremation releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and requires significant energy consumption due to high temperatures needed for incineration. On the other hand, burials take up valuable land space and can introduce embalming chemicals into the soil over time.

In contrast, aquamation uses less energy than traditional cremation (approximately one-eighth of the energy), produces no direct emissions or greenhouse gases, and the remaining liquid is rich in nutrients and can be safely returned to the earth. This makes aquamation a more sustainable choice for those who are environmentally conscious.

The End Result: What’s Left After Aquamation?

After the aquamation process, the remaining bone fragments are processed into a fine white powder, which is returned to the family in an urn. The volume of remains from aquamation is usually greater than that of traditional cremation because no bone matter is lost to incineration. This means families often receive more ashes back after aquamation.

The sterile liquid that remains after aquamation is full of nutrients and poses no environmental risk. It can be safely disposed of into the sewage system or used as a nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants and trees, offering a unique way for families to commemorate their loved ones by nourishing new life.

Acceptance and Availability

While aquamation offers numerous benefits over traditional methods, its acceptance and availability are still growing. Currently, not all regions have legalized this process due to various reasons including cultural beliefs, religious views, or lack of understanding about the process. However, with increasing awareness about its environmental benefits and gentle nature, more regions are beginning to legalize and offer this service.


In conclusion, aquamation is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional burial or cremation methods that uses water instead of fire to return a body back to its natural elements. It offers a gentle yet effective way of handling human remains while minimizing environmental impact. As we continue to seek sustainable alternatives in all aspects of life, it's worth considering options like aquamation when planning for end-of-life care.

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